A birdwatching trip to Ecuador in October 2001 - Andes to Amazon! The humming bird here is the Andean Emerald. On the left is a view of  Volcanes Illiniza (5,266m) and on the right is Gorzacocha, an oxbow lake off the Rio Napo, in the Amazon basin. All photos (C) Ruth Traynor.

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Home -> Diary -> Amazon basin -> La Selva Lodge

Yellow-rumped Cacique. Photo: Ruth TraynorAmazon Basin Diary
13 - 16 October 2001
5. La Selva Lodge

And so, at last, to the Lodge! "La Selva" means "the jungle", so the name is a bit contorted. And that's the only criticism I have to make. It's everything their literature claims!

We arrived in the early afternoon, walked along the board walk for about 15 minutes (luggage carried for us), and then got into the small paddle canoe for the 15 minute trip across Garzacocha ("heron lake") to the Lodge itself.

This separation of the Lodge from the river adds to its tranquillity. The Rio Napo is fairly heavily trafficked with motorised boats, and we were sufficiently far away not to hear the sounds. Sasha Lodge, a few km upstream, seems to be closer to the river. But I won't pass judgement on them for that.

After a welcome cocktail and snack and getting fitted out with rubber boots, we then unpacked and returned to the bar to meet our guide and go out on our first trip (we first had time to wander a few hundred metres down a trail past the butterfly farm, and didn't recognise any of the few birds we heard!).

We were extremely fortunate to have the exclusive service of La Selva's top bird guide, a Quichua Indian, José Hualinga.

The cabana accomodation at La Selva. Photo: Ruth TraynorI had, prior to our visit, exchanged many emails with La Selva's delightful and enthusiastic 'Sales Representative', Juana Marañón. Her job description is a little misleading, because she basically handles most of the office side for La Selva's Quito office. More than that, we were fortunate enough to meet her at La Selva (and exchanged big hugs!), because her multilingual talents meant that she was acting as a translator for a 30-strong party of retired French school teachers. It was Juana, who, learning that our prime interest was birds (she insisted that we describe ourselves as 'hard core birders'!) who managed to get José Hualinga allocated exclusively to us during our stay - and I had expected that we would be escorted round in a group of 6 - 8 people. Thanks, Juana! And another hug for you!

José has guided some of the leading birding visitors to La Selva, and we must have seemed to him (well, we are!) very inexperienced compared with some of the people he has guided. But José proved to be very patient with us, doing his best to get us onto the birds that he found with his experience and very sharp eyes.

La Selva Lodge from Garzacocha. Photo: Ruth TraynorHe was also very professional in his approach and his command of the English language includes all the English bird names and appropriate location vocabulary ("that branch, there", "through the gap", etc). He was well equipped with a pair of 8 x 30 Swarovski bins (much lighter than my 10 x 42 Swarovski), a cassette player (he used the tape we had "Birds of La Selva", on whose sleeve he appears on the credits!) and the new tool of professional bird guides, a red laser pointer, to show the dim-witted clients on which branch the bird is sitting. This was very necessary for us, and it works well in the dim light of the forest.

Just a few notes about La Selva before returning to the birds. The cabins are comfortable, with window screens and good mosquito nets over the beds; we had no use for our own. The food is excellent. Breakfast is whatever time you want (we ate at 5.30 am each morning), lunch (unless you have a boxed lunch with you, which is very good), is at 1 pm, and dinner is at 7 pm. The bar is well-stocked, the wine reasonably priced, and all the staff are extremely helpful and friendly (hats off to the manager, Pedro, and the excellent barman, Pepé!).

OK, that's enough praise for La Selva. On to the birding. As in other parts of this diary, I'm splitting the account into habitats, rather than days. It seems to make sense to divide it in this way:

  • The várzea forest (seasonally flooded) forest around La Selva, including the Lodge area, the boardwalk from the Rio Napo to Garzacocha (walked quite a few times) and the walk to the Canopy Tower and Mandicocha - "Water Hyacinth Lake" - done once.
  • The Canopy Tower - an experience on its own, even though we only visited it once.
  • The lakes - Garzacocha and Mandicocha. We crossed Garzacocha (an oxbow lake) many times, and had some specific trips around it. We visited Mandicocha once.
  • The terra firma forest (not seasonally flooded), to the south of the Lodge, on the opposite side of the Rio Napo. We had two long trips to this area.
   
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